Terrapin makes a splash in Wisconsin debut

Terrapin Beer Co. last week rolled into Wisconsin, marking its 18th state of distribution and its fifth new state of 2017.

The fast-growing Athens, Ga., brewery hit the Milwaukee market with a splash over the weekend, pouring its flagship IPA, Hopsecutioner, at the Riverside Theater for three days of sold-out concerts by the band Widespread Panic, which also hails from Athens. The beer also hit tap handles at the Bradley Center for a Milwaukee Bucks professional basketball game.

“Friday was the largest alcohol sales day Riverside Theater has ever had, and they broke that record on Saturday. They moved through a ton of Terrapin,” says Dustin Watts, Terrapin’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Our team here, working in conjunction with the Tenth and Blake and MillerCoors teams, has done an unbelievable job in getting us rolling in Wisconsin.”

The high-profile launch is part of a phased-in branding campaign for Terrapin in Wisconsin, where the beer will gradually roll out over the next year. Hopsecutioner, a copper-colored IPA with notes of pine and citrus, initially will be distributed on draft only in select on-premise accounts in Milwaukee and Madison.

“We want to build some awareness and excitement for the brand prior to full launch in early 2018,” says Paul Verdu, vice president of sales and marketing for Tenth and Blake, the craft division of MillerCoors. “We want to focus on Wisconsin to make sure we get it right.”

Starting in January, MillerCoors-owned Terrapin will roll out six-packs of Hopsecutioner and Hi-5 IPA cans as well as 15-packs of an American pale ale called RecreationAle. In spring more draft and packaged Terrapin beers are scheduled to be released followed by seasonals over the summer. The brand also is expected to begin distribution in other Wisconsin markets over the first half of 2018.

“At this point, we’re in phase zero, which is just about trying to build awareness for the brand,” Watts says. “The goal is to put the brand in the hands of the right consumers. For us, it’s about planting a seed. It will take time, but we’ll slowly build the brand the best way we can, setting up the market for long-term success and growth.”

Fifteen-year-old Terrapin continues to grow. Sales are up 38.1 percent in the 52 weeks ending Oct. 14, according to Nielsen all-outlet data. Part of that growth is due to success in new markets; the brand also launched this year in Kentucky, Ohio, Mississippi and Delaware.

But even as the brand has pushed into new markets, it has retained robust growth at home, Watts says. Terrapin is on track to have its best year ever in its home state and sales are up north of 25 percent this year in its top market, Atlanta.

Terrapin is scheduled to launch early next year in Michigan, which would be its 19th state, followed by further expansion, potentially as early as next year.

“There will be more coming,” Watts says. “Our rollout plan is very conservative, easy for wholesalers to digest and understand what we’re going after. It’s important we get this right. We are in the business of building a brand.”